Sunday, May 30, 2010

SA GLAAD Welcomes Release Of Malawi Couple Imprisoned For Their Love

SA GLAAD welcomes the decision of Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, to pardon and release Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, after a Malawian court convicted them of homosexuality under archaic British colonial-era laws, and sentenced them to 14 years hard labor.

We encourage President Mutharika and the people of Malawi to continue their growth towards democracy and the enshrinement of equality and human rights in their Constitution by repealing all laws which contradict the progressive spirit of their Constitution and negatively impact on the value of human life and dignity of minority groups.

We would like to praise and thank all individuals, human rights groups, churches, political and civil bodies who participated in whatever manner, in the global campaign for the release of the Malawian couple - and for speaking out in defense of human rights and equality - in particular UK human rights activist, Peter Tatchell, who led their defense and facilitated humanitarian access to them. We hope they will continue to do so in other states wherever human rights are threatened or otherwise absent.

We call on all governments in Africa and around the world to recognize the importance and necessity of including all people in the fabric of their societies - and to protect all their citizens under just laws which reflect the vision that all people are created equal, and which nurture the freedom, dignity and equality of all individuals and groups - and respect these freedoms, which are key to social advancement and peaceful progress.

We commend and thank the South African President, Jacob Zuma, for speaking out on the matter on Thursday.

We hope that this shining example will light the way for other countries where human rights are trampled underfoot and fear, intimidation, torture, persecution and oppression are the order of the day.

We encourage President Zuma to continue to speak out against the gross abuses of human rights elsewhere in Africa, such as in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Rwanda, DRC and in Uganda - the worst case, where currently a Bill remains undecided, which would provide for the death sentence for being gay, and existing laws also prescribe 14 year jail terms. The freedom of living and loving openly is currently denied to people living in no fewer than 38 African states.

South Africa, as the only country on the Continent where GLBTI people have full legal equality, is a beacon of human rights and equality for the world - and fifteen years after the adoption of our new Constitution, clearly demonstrates that perceived threats and fears of according people the rights and mercies to live and love unhindered by oppressive and conservative laws are wholly unfounded and totally baseless.

We also encourage President Zuma and the South African government to open dialogue with human rights advocacy organizations in Africa, and in South Africa, who have been campaigning against such human rights violations across the continent for years without any recent acknowledgment or engagement from the South African government. We hope that this will be the start of a new age of co-operation and growth in the betterment of human rights in Africa, our continent.

We would also like to express our gratitude and admiration for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga for, through their suffering, helping to bring about change and betterment and for being an inspiration to millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people around the world. We wish them well for the future!

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